Saturday, February 27, 2010

Nancy Tousley of the Calgary Herald Writes about Larry Towell in Her Blog

After being written about in the Calgary Herald earlier in the month, Nancy Tousley writes about Larry Towell's book The World From my Front Porch on her blog. The interview discusses his book, his interest in photojournalism and also includes images from his book.

Original Link to Nancy Tousley blog entry:

Friday, February 26, 2010

Submit Your Photos to Photosensitive's "Cancer Connections" Exhibition

Photograph by Marilyn Jarrett , © PhotoSensitive

Photosensitive' s "Cancer Connections" exhibit shows photographs of those who's lives have been affected by cancer. These images document the lives of people who have personally had cancer, who have lost a loved one to the disease, who have been involved in cancer research and also people who care for those who are sick. In partnership with the Canadian Cancer Society, this exhibition hopes to spread light on a disease that effects so many.

The Vancouver exhibition of Photosensitive's "Cancer Connections" will be at the Granville Square Plaza, 200 Granville Street, from April 20th - May 2nd. The exhibit will also be going to Calgary in May and to Ottawa in June (deadlines to be confirmed.)

Interested in submitting a photo?
You can upload an image directly on the website, email your photo to, or if you only have a hardcopy, send it James Burns at 4242 Rockwood rd, Mississauga Ontario, L4W 1L8.

Submission requirements: preferably black and white, 20 x 16 at 300 dpi, jpg or tiff format. Also include a 50 word caption describing the photo and the individual's experience with cancer.

The deadline for submissions for the Vancouver exhibit is February 28th, 2010.

Link to Photosensitive's Cancer Connections:

Link to Canadian Cancer Society exhibition:

Thursday, February 25, 2010


February 27th, 2010

3:00 PM


Dir. Michael McGowan (CA, 2008) 94 mins

Ben Tyler (Joshua Jackson) has been diagnosed with cancer. With a grim chance of survival in the best case scenario even if he immediately begins treatment, he instead decides to take a motorcycle trip from Toronto through the Canadian prairies to British Columbia. Along the way, he makes new friends, reevaluates his relationship with his fiancée Samantha (played by Liane Balaban), his job, and his dream of becoming a writer, and, after suffering some near-death experiences, learns to appreciate life.

Fitting squarely in the tradition of "road trip" movies, the film features classic Canadian scenery, roadside attractions and Canadian icons: even the Stanley Cup makes a cameo appearance.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

REMINDER: "Emerge" collection at ARTSPACE

Reminder that the Emerge photography collection will be at ARTSPACE in Peterborough from February 25, 2010 - February 28th, 2010. Proceeds will go to the PRHC Foundation.

Gallery Link:

Foundation Link:

Monday, February 22, 2010

Vid Ingelevics included in "Greenbelt" exhibition

Vid Ingelevics is included along with 10 other artists in the Artists Survey The Greenbelt exhibition currently at Gallery 1313 located at 1313A Queen Street West . The exhibit explores the different issues surrounding the Ontario's Greenbelt and is a celebration of the 5th anniversary of Ontario's Greenbelt.

Exhibition Dates: February 17th - 28th.
Opening Reception: February 18th, 8:30pm - 10 pm.
FREE Panel discussion: February 24, 7 pm -9 pm
Location: Gallery 1313, 1313A Queen Street West, Toronto

From March 4th - 28th the exhibit will be moving around to 3 different location in Ontario's Greenbelt. Details to be announced.
Link to Gallery 1313:
Link to Greenbelt:

Friday, February 19, 2010

Sarah Anne Johnson video on Shaw TV Winnipeg

Shaw TV
in Winnipeg has created a video about Sarah Anne Johnson for her latest live installation and performance "Dancing With The Doctor." The video explains the personal story behind the exhibit and includes the dancer's preparing for the show mentally and physically as well as an interview with the artist.

To view the video (can only be seen on a PC):

Click on Arts and Entertainment, then "Backstage" banner.

Sarah Anne Johnson video will be listed as Sarah Anne Johnson "Dancing With The Doctor"

Larry Towell article in "Calgary Herald"

Photographer puts crises in perspective
Festival speaker Larry Towell hopes pictures affect people

By Nancy Tousley, Calgary Herald
February 18, 2010

Artist Presentation: Friday, February 19th at Canmore Collegiate at 7:30 p.m.
Book Signing: Saturday, February 20th at Vistek, 1231 10th Ave. S.W., 12 p.m. to 1 p.m. and 5 to 6 p.m.

"Larry Towell, the one Canadian member of the famed agency, Magnum Photos, leaves his bucolic farm in southern Ontario, near the village of Bothwell, to work in the world's hot spots where conflicts rage and disasters have occurred, most recently Afghanistan and Haiti. He is just back from his first trip to Haiti since the earthquake, but this week he will go to Windsor to record an acoustiguide script for Engaged Observers: Documentary Photography since the Sixties, a group show he'll be in at The Getty Museum in June, and he'll fly to Calgary on Friday to give the special presentation of Exposure 2010, the annual photography festival in Calgary, Banff and Canmore, at Canmore Collegiate High School. On Saturday, he will sign copies of his photo books in Calgary.

The 10-day trip to Haiti was wrenching. "That really shook me up," the 53-year-old photographer said in a telephone interview from his farm. "I've been in pretty rough places, but I was affected, you know? Just the amount of human suffering, the concentration of suffering in such a concentrated place and period, and the graciousness of the people. Unbelievable.

"It affects you as a human being. And I hope it affects people who look at the pictures, because if it doesn't I have failed."

Towell is drawn to human crises and what happens to the displaced and dispossessed, who lose not only their land and everything they have, whether from war or disaster, but also their identity. His first book was a document of the Contra War in Nicaragua in the 1980s.

"This is how I started taking pictures," he says. "I went to Nicaragua as part of a human rights delegation; it was my first time in a war zone. I saw what was going on and I said, 'I feel I should say something about this, whatever I can.'

"So I went back with a cheap RadioShack tape recorder, and I was still teaching guitar and folk music, and I would go down in the summer or at Christmas break. I started hitchhiking around the war zone collecting interviews and put them together as a book. In the meantime, I was also photographing.

"Then I went to Guatemala because there were a lot of refugees coming to Canada. We had a Central America solidarity group in Sarnia and so I started meeting these people, made friends with some of them. I went to Guatemala, through connections, to interview mothers of the disappeared there. I started photographing and did all these interviews in a couple of days.

"It was an intense meeting where I just stayed up all night and worked with interpreters, both in Spanish and various Indian languages. In the meantime, I had done two books of poetry with photographs."

Towell sent this work to Magnum because he thought the celebrated photographers' co-operative, founded in 1947 by Henri Cartier-Bresson and Robert Capa, was a picture archive that sold photographs and might be able to sell some of his. He was not applying for membership, but he was made a nominee anyway on the strength of his work. Even then, it took him a year to fully realize where he had landed, as he says, by fluke.

After five years, the length of time it takes to become a member, Towell bought shares in the company and is an owner. He is considered a New York photographer because he works out of that office, where he was vice-president for three years. Magnum has offices in New York, London, Paris and Tokyo. Had he known what Magnum was at the start, he says he probably would have been too intimidated to apply.

Towell works as a freelancer, dislikes assignments, and does his own work to his own disciplined standards. He says the digital revolution has cheapened photography and he still shoots film. More than the single photograph, he believes in the efficacy of the photo book which can contain several great single shots framed by the context of a photo essay.

"The book is the statement," Towell says. The Getty show he is in, along with such photographers as W. Eugene Smith, Leonard Freed and Lauren Greenfield, explores the direction of the published photo essay in the last half of the 20th century. According to the museum website, it focuses on the work of "independent photojournalists who have sought to develop their work beyond traditional media outlets, pursuing book-length projects of artistic proportions."

This well describes Towell, who believes in independence. He has published 12 books. The earliest four are texts (field interviews Or His Poetry) With Photographs; beginning with his book on El Salvador, the rest are photo-driven essays in large format books. The places he has worked in also include Vietnam, a Mennonite colony in Mexico, Israel and the U.S. Gulf Coast (Alabama, Mississippi and Louisiana) devastated by hurricane Katrina.

He just happened to be in New York for a monthly photographers' meeting at Magnum on Sept. 11, 2001. He was staying with his friend and Magnum colleague Susan Meiselas, when she woke him up with the news that a plane had run into one of the World Trade Center towers. "I said 'Where is the World Trade Center?' She said, 'Follow the smoke.'

"So I started running and I realized I didn't have any film and I didn't have my camera. I had a point and shoot, a decent point and shoot, but not a camera I would normally use. I grabbed some film as I was going down, fortunately there was some in a store. I started shooting as I ran and I stayed there all day.

"I didn't know what was happening until the end of the day."

His striking 9/11 photographs are published in a book with others by Magnum photographers who were New York that day. They all had picked up cameras and rushed downtown toward no one knew what.

When Towell is not off somewhere working, he is in southern Ontario on his farm. He also takes photographs there, where his most recent and most personal book begins. Called The World from My Front Porch, it takes the form of a photo album and situates Towell in a place near where he grew up, whose history he relates. From his place and family, the scope widens to evidence of crisis in places he has been, both his photographs and photos of artifacts he has picked up, like the locks and keys of destroyed Palestinian houses.

If the book is the statement, Towell's metaphorical front porch would seem to be his anchor and the book a testament to the importance of a safe home and security in everybody's lives." - Nancy Tousley

Thursday, February 18, 2010


February 20th, 2010

3:00 PM


Dir. Atom Egoyan (CA, 1997) 112 mins

The Sweet Hereafter is a 1991 novel by American author Russell Banks. It is set in a small town in the aftermath of a deadly school bus accident that has killed most of the town's children. Hardly able to cope with the loss, their grieving parents are approached by a lawyer (Ian Holm) who wants them to sue for damages. At first the parents are reluctant to do so, but eventually they are persuaded by the lawyer that filing a class action lawsuit would ease their minds and also be the right thing to do.

As most of the children are dead, the case now depends on the few surviving witnesses to say the right things in court. In particular, it is 15 year-old Nicole Burnell (Sarah Polley), who was sitting at the front of the bus and is now paralyzed from the waist down, whose deposition is all-important. However, she unexpectedly accuses driver Dolores Driscoll (Gabrielle Rose) of speeding and thus causing the accident. When she does so, all hopes of ever receiving money are thwarted. All the people involved know that Nicole is lying but cannot do anything about it.

"Emerge" photography collection at ARTSPACE

ARTSPACE in Peterborough, Ont. will be showing the Emerge photography collection from February 25th, 2010 until February 28, 2010 before it is permanently installed in the Dembroski Emergency Department of the Peterborough Regional Health Centre. The collection contains more than 90 photographer. Proceeds will go to the PRHC Foundation.

ARTSPACE (378 Aylmer Street N., Peterborough)
February 25th & 26th - 10 am – 6 pm
February 27th & 28th - 12 pm – 4 pm

Gallery Link:
Foundation Link:

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Scott Conarroe to be opening speaker at Photo Alliance lecture

Scott Conarroe will be the opening speaker at the Photo Alliance lecture at the San Francisco Art Institute.

February 19, 2010
7:30 pm
San Francisco Art Institute Lecture Hall 800 Chestnut Street San Francisco, Ca (at Jones Street)
$10.00 general admission $5.00 students with ID--- TICKETS AVAILABLE AT THE DOOR

For more information go to:

O Canada - A note about our current exhibition

A weekend visitor to our “O Canada” show has prompted me to forward this clarification on our current exhibition.

For the past 15 years, my gallery has maintained an inventory of historical photographs of Canada, in fact it has developed into quite an enterprise. Our present exhibition contains 97 photographic objects from a current inventory of about 3,000 such objects. Some of these have been in my inventory for more than 10 years; others have been there for less than 10 weeks. Like any inventory, it is in a constant state of flux.

The reason for this missive is that upon further reflection on the short conversation I had with someone on Saturday afternoon, I realized that some people are under the mistaken impression that my exhibition is the summation of a single collection. I appreciate very much the degree to which this celebratory exhibition has been received – we are quite proud of it – so I want to ensure that people are not alarmed by the fact that so many different people have purchased items from this exhibition. Indeed, I am very happy that so many people have made new homes for some terrific photographs.

I also happen to personally collect these types of photographs myself, but like most people, these are safely kept in boxes stored away. My strategy has been to purchase photographs I consider exemplary as gallery inventory and if its merits have not been noticed by another, then after about 6 months I feel that it is OK for me to personally buy it from my gallery.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

William Eakin wins Manitoba Arts Council Award of Distinction


The Manitoba Arts Council announces that William Eakin has been named the eighth recipient of the Arts Award of Distinction. This $30,000 award is presented annually to recognize the highest level of artistic excellence and distinguished career achievements by a professional Manitoba artist.

Related link:

Artist Page:
William Eakin

Friday, February 12, 2010

Jaret Belliveau in torontoist for TPW


Jaret Belliveau's Family Portraits


"Jaret Belliveau assembles his family album from moments that would normally get cut from the scrapbook: his father wandering a rust-coated junkyard; his brother stooped over a toilet with that forlorn, post-puke look on his face; his mother hooked up to a tangle of hospital tubing. Belliveau has been photographing his family for over four years, first peeking in on their daily lives in and around Moncton, then charting his mother’s struggle with cancer and the aftermath of her death. "Dominion Street," being presented at Gallery TPW until March 6, marks another evolution in Belliveau’s photographic documentation, bringing together his own shots alongside a series of old family pictures.

The project started during Belliveau’s breaks from the Nova Scotia School of Art and Design, back when he “didn’t even know how to use a flash.” At home in Moncton, he would take his parents to the places they grew up, photographing them in locales from their past and hearing stories of that time. His father is a truck driver and his mother became a minister late in life, and it was by watching them through his lens and in these environments that he started to understand them as individuals. “At the beginning, it was really innocent,” he says, “I was in my third year of school. It was this really interesting time as a photographer, and I was exploring that in a really hands-on matter.”


Though the sense of innocence was inevitably cast aside due to his mother’s illness, Belliveau didn’t lose his awareness of how space shapes a moment. “You can go to a war zone and take a picture of somebody’s head that’s been blown off—or you can find onlookers,” he says. In this case the spectators are his father and younger brother, David, shown in winter-wear limbo next to his mother’s frail but at times smiling figure. This section of Belliveau’s work is as much about their grief as his mother’s deterioration. “I was trying to be compassionate to my father losing a wife. Or to my grandmother watching her daughter die,” Belliveau explains.

Following his mother’s death, Belliveau procured a green 1975 VW van—what else?—and tinkered 'til it was fit for long stretches of highway. With the help of a grant from his school, he and David journeyed across the country, taking photos throughout the ride. “We were using a guide from 1975 called Explore Canada,” says Belliveau, “So every time we rolled into a town I’d ask David what was happening in 1975, same year as the van. We were looking for things that didn’t exist anymore.” For two sons coping with the loss of a mother, this search for the irretrievable becomes especially poignant.


During their trip, Belliveau began a series of faux vacation shots of David in front of major Canadian monuments: windswept in front of the Plains of Abraham, bandana covering his eyes outside a teepee in British Columbia. “I would position him but I wouldn’t tell him how to act,” explains Belliveau about this transition away from fly-on-the-wall candids. “I wanted to give him as much of an environment as possible in which he could express himself.” Previously featured in The Walrus and on the CBC's website, these sort-of-posed shots are given new context alongside a collection of family photographs Belliveau resurrected from a hutch in his grandmother’s house. Unmarked images from various places and eras, they further emphasize his interest in both a national and familial past. “I’m playing with the idea of what makes a family album. Like there’s a photo of my mom with a man, and it’s not necessarily my father. So part of it is playing with history and the way people interpret photographs.”


The final series of photos—many of which have not been shown before—marks a return to the homestead of Belliveau’s original work. He describes his mother as the “constant,” and after her death their house came apart—literally. Writing on the ceiling, dislodged furniture, and a bottle of liquor sunk into a hole in the drywall are all elements that speak to the pain of the past few years. Like at the beginning of the project, Belliveau found that the location said as much about his family as they could say themselves.

"That’s my dad's house and that’s the state it was in before he sold it,” Belliveau says, “I wanted to investigate environments like my family home. I felt like they spoke to me as much about loss and the trauma of losing somebody. And all the pain that was wrapped up in that event was just still there.”

"Dominion Street" is on display until March 6 at Gallery TPW. It is presented courtesy of Stephen Bulger Gallery.
Photos courtesy of Jaret Belliveau."

- Eleni Deacon

For original article go to:

Artist Talk with Anthony Koutras on Friday February 19th

Next Friday, February 19th, 2010, Anthony Koutras is giving an artist talk OCAD in Room 415 at 9:00am.

Working from a multidisciplinary art background, Koutras’ art career is primarily concentrated on photography interlaced with sculpture, installation and public installations. His photo-based installations explore photography’s capacity to represent space and mimic objects. Utilizing photography to replicate objects he creates false space through the photographic medium, inviting viewers to observe their public environment with a new perspective. Anthony Koutras is a graduate from the Ontario College of Art and Design, with a major in Photography, and is currently completing his final year of an MFA degree at York University. Koutras’ photographs can be found in numerous private collections and are also included in the publication of Flash Forward, 2008. Represented by Stephen Bulger Gallery, Koutras will be exhibiting a solo show with the gallery April 15 – April 24, 2010. Visit:

For more information, please also visit OCAD's website at:

Thursday, February 11, 2010


February 13th, 2010

3:00 PM


Dir. Guy Maddin (CA, 2003) 100 mins

In 1933, in Winnipeg during the American Great Depression, the legless baroness of beer industry, Lady Helen Port-Huntley (Isabella Rossellini), promotes a contest to choose the saddest music in the world and find the real drinkers in the process. Musicians from across the world come to Winnipeg to try their luck in the competition, but the contest eventually becomes a battle within one family: a patriotic Canadian father and his expatriate sons, one of whom represents the United States, the other Serbia.

So many movies travel the same weary roads, so few imagine entirely original worlds. Guy Maddin's "The Saddest Music in the World" exists in a time and place we have never seen before, although it claims to be set in Winnipeg in 1933. The city, we learn, has been chosen by the London Times, for the fourth year in a row, as "the world capital of sorrow."

Johnson in Winnipeg Free Press for her performance piece "Dancing with the Doctor" at aceart

Winnipeg Free Press

Shock to the system
Violent, visceral dance work makes a powerful, personal statement

By: Alison Gillmor

The first act of Johnson’s exhibit, below, deals with sensory deprivation.

The first act of Johnson’s exhibit, below, deals with sensory deprivation.

Sarah Anne Johnson takes a big risk with her latest body of work. It pays off: this performance-installation piece is intimate, unsettling and almost unbearably powerful.

The 33-year-old Winnipegger hit art-star status in 2005 when her first solo exhibition, Tree Planting, was bought by the Guggenheim Museum in New York. Johnson followed up with The Galapagos Project, another ecologically themed series involving small sculptures and photo-based work, winning the inaugural Grange prize for photography in 2008.

Johnson could have easily continued in this artistic direction, but in 2009 she decided to investigate a painful passage in her family's history with the mixed-media exhibit House on Fire. Her current show at aceart expands these deeply personal and emotional concerns, this time working in tricky terrain bounded by dance, theatre and visual art.

In the 1950s, Johnson's maternal grandmother, Val Orlikow, underwent treatment for postpartum depression with Dr. Ewen Cameron at Montreal's Allan Memorial Institute. It was later revealed that Cameron's experimental therapies had been funded by the CIA as part of a Cold War program to develop brainwashing techniques.

The charismatic, crusading Cameron believed that the brains of patients suffering from depression or schizophrenia could be wiped clean and then built back up with massive amounts of electroshock, dangerous drug cocktails of speed and LSD, and long stretches of induced sleep. Orlikow suffered permanent psychological damage from her experiences at the Allan.

Johnson's 30-minute performance piece is structured as a simple triptych, with three sets and three dancers -- Tanja Woloshen, Ming Hon and Holly Treddenick -- representing aspects of her grandmother's fractured psyche.

At the centre of the gallery is a medical examining table, the stirrups at the end of the table subtly suggesting the power dynamic of the male doctor and the female "hysteric." A dancer in shapeless hospital garb, her face eclipsed by a black hood and her hands turned into rigid tubes bound with electrical tape, gropes blind and insensate, a reference to Cameron's use of prolonged sensory deprivation. She bangs her useless hands on the ground before collapsing, defeated and exhausted.

In the second movement, the focus shifts to a marital bed. The painted headboard and ruffled linens seem old-fashioned and homey, but the bed is flanked by a B-movie mechanical device and outfitted with the kind of thick leather restraints used in psych wards. One side of the bed is blackened with scorch marks, Johnson's dark allusion to Cameron's infatuation with electroshock.

The dancer is dressed in silk pyjamas and an outsized furry squirrel head, an ensemble that sounds comic but quickly takes on an eerie sense of otherness when a buzzing noise causes the dancer to go into back-arching convulsions, followed by frantic, fretful, squirrely skittering.

The last act moves to a desk strewn with books and paper. The third dancer wears pants and a top, but her unseeing mannequin face is screwed on backwards, giving all her motions a grotesque, contortionist quality. The figure tries desperately to scrawl her thoughts onto yellow legal pads, but is thwarted by her broken memory and scattered concentration. She erupts into pounding rages, the violence of the dance heartbreakingly counterpointed by her grandmotherly orthopedic shoes.

A strong sense of the uncanny permeates this performance. It's interesting that Freud translated that term as unheimlich, or "un-homelike." By combining horrific medical abuse with domestic interiors, Johnson suggests the way Orlikow's suffering reverberated through the generations of her family.

"Dancing With the Doctor" is a physical performance with a physical effect. It hits the viewer in the gut. But this visceral surge is balanced by the work's incredible control. Johnson's disciplined choreography, her eye for the telling detail, the precision of the dancers -- all these things tighten and concentrate the emotion into an almost classical evocation of pity and terror.

(The performances at aceart are now sold out, but Johnson's sets and costumes are on view during gallery hours.)

Art Review

"Dancing with the Doctor" by Sarah Anne Johnson
Aceartinc., 2-290 McDermot Ave.
Until March 5

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition February 11, 2010 D3

For the original link, please go to:

Friday, February 5, 2010

Laura Letinsky in Art Forum critic's picks for Feb. 2010

Claudine Ise in ArtForum's current critic pick's writes about Laura Letinsky's exhibition "Chicago" at Monique Meloche Gallery, on view until March 13. She writes:

Laura Letinsky
2154 W. Division
January 16–March 13

Laura Letinsky, Untitled #2, 2008, color photograph, 32 x 40". From the series “The Dog and the Wolf,” 2008–2009.

In her first series of domestic still-life photographs (“Morning, and Melancholia,” 2002–), Laura Letinsky put the contemporary kitchen countertop and the traditions of seventeenth-century Dutch paintings under analysis, as it were, revealing them both to be purveyors of deep-seated cultural meanings. In Letinsky’s subsequent bodies of work, the white tablecloth—traditionally a sign of cleanliness and elegance—figures as a screen on which a culture’s ideas surrounding food, desire, and sustenance are projected and consumed.

Succulence and decay, desire and the sense of repulsion that often follows satiety, are competing forces in the artist’s latest exhibition, a magnificently concise selection of five large-format color photographs culled from a new series titled “The Dog and the Wolf,” 2008–2009. These grimly elegiac images, all shot in the artist’s studio during the velvety gray hours of twilight, foreground to a greater extent than before the serene abjection at the heart of Letinsky’s project without sacrificing any of the exquisitely controlled formalism for which she is known.

The artfully strewn cellophane wrappers and fast-food packaging of her 2006 series “To Say It Isn’t So” have been replaced by a dead rabbit and pigeon, a pile of scooped-out oyster shells, and various minute scraps of organic detritus placed so precisely on the table’s surface as to suggest an excavation site rather than an abandoned meal. Shot from a range of perspectives, all of them somewhat disorienting, Letinsky’s dining table no longer appears as a deserted gathering spot. Now it seems more like a precipice, its contents pushed precariously close to the edge with nowhere left to go.

For the full article, please go to:

Related Link:

Thursday, February 4, 2010

CBC New's Alec Scott writes about "O Canada"


How they see us

A new photo exhibition looks at the history of Canada's image abroad

Last Updated: Thursday, February 4, 2010

By Alec Scott

Erecting \

Erecting "Canada Bread" sign, Dundas West and Bloor, Toronto (1951), photographer unknown.

My father is English, and I vividly remember that one of the books his family had on its shelves was an essay collection called The Romance of Canada. It featured a skin-wearing fur-trapper on its cover, plodding through a wintry pine forest on snowshoes, his rifle at the ready.

Many of the images in O Canada, a new photo exhibition that runs until Feb. 27, are similarly stereotypical. The bulk of the pictures, on display at the Stephen Bulger Gallery in Toronto, document the nation's first century, from Confederation to Expo '67. Bulger tracked down historic images in collections around the world, but he hit a mother lode when the New York Times invited him to explore its vast photo archive in Queens. There, among four-million-plus photos, the curator found over 22,000 with Canadian content.

Many of the photos in the show illustrate how Canada grew to be perceived by the rest of the world. Winter is a constant presence, and the Mounties and Niagara also get their close-ups. Some images document the central role aboriginals have played in the nation's story, while others bear witness to the birth of a multicultural society.

Moose Hunting: The Return (1866), by William Notman.

Moose Hunting: The Return (1866), by William Notman.

The images of itinerant Scottish-born photographer William Notman were seen around the world in the Victorian era, and helped convey a romantic image of the nascent nation to people who'd never been there. Ironically, this seemingly authentic depiction of life in the wilds was staged in Notman's Montreal studio. Indeed, a nation's image is always, to some degree, staged.

Prince Arthur and Group, Ottawa, Ont. (1870), by William Notman.

Prince Arthur and Group, Ottawa, Ont. (1870), by William Notman.

Much pomp and circumstance surrounded Canadian visits of British royals, with street-naming and ribbon-cutting ceremonies. But images of (apparently) less formal, unscripted events – like this shot of a tobogganing Prince Arthur – were especially prized in the home country.

Ice Skating, Kingston (ca. 1890), by Harry Henderson.

Ice Skating, Kingston (ca. 1890), by Harry Henderson.

The crowd gathered at this Kingston, Ont., rink suggests it's more than just a recreational skate. With the rules of hockey just formalized in the late 1870s, this photo could be one of the earliest documents of our national sport. ("I can't say for sure," curator Stephen Bulger says, "but it looks like hockey.")

Bobby Leach and his Barrel (1911), Photo Specialty Co.

Bobby Leach and his Barrel (1911), Photo Specialty Co.

Several photos in O Canada illustrate the international fascination with Niagara Falls. The daredevil Bobby Leach evidently survived his barrel ride over the cataract, and has been clumsily cut-and-pasted in front of this glamour shot of the falls.

Ice Palace at Lachine, Que. (circa 1928), photographer unknown.

Ice Palace at Lachine, Que. (circa 1928), photographer unknown.

The numerous ice and snow-covered shots in the exhibition call to mind Gilles Vigneault's lyric "Mon pays ce n'est pas un pays, c'est l'hiver" ­– "my country is not a country, it's winter." Many of the snaps, like this one of an ice castle at an unidentified festival, glamourize our coldest season, rendering it exotic and pretty for those in more temperate climes.

A Douglas Fir Log in Forest North of Port Haney, B.C. (1933), photographer unknown.

A Douglas Fir Log in Forest North of Port Haney, B.C. (1933), photographer unknown.

The influential economic historian Harold Innis argued that Canada's dependence on raw, unprocessed staples like fish, minerals, fossil fuels, pulp and paper put us at the mercy of more industrially advanced nations. He felt we were often relegated simply to the role of hewers of wood, as witnessed here, and drawers of water.

A \

A "Ghost Town" of the '90s Comes Back to Life (circa 1934), photographer unknown.

Here's how the New York Times captioned this shot: "Barkerville, B.C., which once numbered a population of 15,000, now the centre of a new gold rush to which men are stampeding for claims." The message conveyed by many of these photographs is that Canada's chief claim to international attention lay in its abundant, seemingly inexhaustible natural resources.

Royal Canadian Mounted Police Arrive for the Coronation (1937), photographer unknown.

Royal Canadian Mounted Police Arrive for the Coronation (1937), photographer unknown.

A recent New York Times crossword puzzle asked for an enduring symbol of Canada in seven letters. The answer, of course, was "Mountie." This photo was used twice by the same paper: once, in 1937, in a photo spread for the Coronation of George VI (in 1937), and again for a story on Alberta's alleged desire to "replace the famous mounted police" in the 1950s.

Padlei, Nunavut (1950), by Richard Harrington.

Padlei, Nunavut (1950), by Richard Harrington.

Retained by Life magazine to shoot photos of the Arctic, Richard Harrington came across the village of Padlei, a community in what is now Nunavut. Padlei's members were starving because of shifting caribou migration patterns. This renowned photo was captioned, "During a time of famine the Padleimiut stay together. Keenaq and her son Keepseeyuk rub noses."

Totem Poles, Alert Bay, B.C. (circa 1950s), photographer unknown.

Totem Poles, Alert Bay, B.C. (circa 1950s), photographer unknown.

O Canada features many images of aboriginal life, ranging from one of a native settlement next to a Hudson's Bay trading post in Temiscaming, Que., to this shot of the totem poles in Alert Bay.

A Fair Way to Celebrate Canada's Centennial (1967), by Sam Falk.

A Fair Way to Celebrate Canada's Centennial (1967), by Sam Falk.

The bold, modern font employed in this fairground fixture signalled Canada's desire to shift gears on its 100th birthday. Expo 67 gave evidence of the host country and former colony's intention to take its place on the international stage.

O Canada runs at the Stephen Bulger Gallery in Toronto until Feb. 27.

Alec Scott is a writer based in Toronto and San Francisco.


February 6th, 2010

3:00 PM


Dir. Patricia Rozema (CA, 1987) 81 mins
I've Heard the Mermaids Singing centers on the engaging and whimsical Polly Vandersma, played by Sheila McCarthy, a naïve and klutzy temporary secretary and amateur photographer in Toronto. Though timid and gauche on the outside, Polly leads an intense inner life. Her fantasies of flying, walking on water and conducting a Beethoven symphony are represented in black and white sequences which punctuate the film. Polly falls in love with the beautiful and sophisticated Gabrielle St Peres after being hired by Gabrielle to assist in the running of a trendy art gallery. Motivated by adoration, Polly smuggles a picture by Gabrielle into the gallery for display, initiating events which eventually reveal a conspiracy between Gabrielle and her lover, Mary Joseph, to pass off Mary's artwork as Gabrielle's.

I've Heard the Mermaids Singing emphasizes eccentricity, and its non-sensational representation of lesbianism in an unusual mainstream Canadian film. Polly's qualities of innocent good-heartedness, read by some viewers as essentially Canadian, earned the film international legions of charmed viewers and the Prix de la Jeunesse at the Cannes Film Festival in 1987.